Balsam Fir

 Abies balsamea tree with cones, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota
Attribution: By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (http://www.fws.gov/midwest/sherburne/ABBA1.HTM) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abies_balsamea.jpg

Latin (group) name: Abies
Latin (specific) name: Abies Balsamea (Linnaeus) Miller
Average max height: 30' to 80'
Average diameter: 10 to 30 inches
Associated state: none
Category: American Woods
The Softwoods - Conifers

The Tree

Balsam Fir, one of the ten firs native to the United States, is a medium-sized and short-lived tree but an important one, nonetheless, in both the United States and Canada. It is a beautiful, symmetrical, heavily-foliaged tree, doubtless the best shaped evergreen, comparable to the Colorado Blue Spruce. Growing to elevations of 5000 to 6000 feet, it is from 30 to 80 feet tall with a diameter of from 10 to 30 inches, with low branches usually occurring on the trunk. It has an unusual bark, which is dull reddish-brown or ash colored and about an inch thick with many thin scales and blisters called “balsam blisters.” On the young trees the branches are thin, smooth and ash colored. The aromatic needles are a deep blue-green, comparatively soft, about one inch long, narrow, glossy on the upper surface and light underneath with blunt ends. They grow spirally on the twig and curve upward. The needles are used in “balsam pillows” because of their softness and pleasing aromatic scent. The cones, which stand erect, are attached close to the twig, are a dark purplish brown and about two to four inches long and contain many seeds. The Balsam Fir is one of the choicest Christmas trees.

balsam fir cones
Balsam Fir cones
balsam fir tree bark
Balsam Fir tree bark
balsam fir forest
Balsam Fir forest

Common Names in Use

  • Balsam Fir (N.H., Vt., Mass., N.Y., Pa., W.Va., Wis., Mich., Minn., Nebr., Ohio, Ontario, Eng., and trade)
  • Balsam (Vt., N.H., N.Y., and trade)
  • Balm-of-Gilead
  • Balm-of-Gilead Fir (N.Y., Pa., W. Va.)
  • Blister Pine (W. Va.)
  • Cho-koh-tung “Blisters” (N.Y., and Indians)
  • Canada Balsam (N.C.)
  • Eastern Fir (trade)
  • Fir tree (Vt.)
  • Fir Pine (W. Va.)
  • Sapin (Quebec)
  • Silver Pine (Hudson Bay)
  • Single Spruce (N. Bruns. to Hudson Bay)

Growth Range

The growth range of Balsam Fir extends from Labrador to southwestern Mackenzie, and Alberta in Canada, and southward to the Lake States, and along the Appalachian Mountains to Virginia.

The Wood

Balsam Fir wood is creamy white to pale yellowish tan in color, wide ringed, with the narrow sapwood indistinguishable from the heartwood. It is light in weight, moderately limber, soft, brittle, straight-grainedStraight grain applies to lumber in which the fibers are straight and parallel to the center or pith of the log, such as Pine, Fir, Redwood, Baldcypress and White Cedar., and of fine texture. It is non-resinous, works easily with tools, and finishes well.

balsam fir wood
Balsam Fir wood


In Canada there is made from this tree a widely known oleo-resin

Canada balsam, also called Canada Turpentine, or Balsam Of Fir, oleoresin consisting of a viscous yellowish to greenish liquid exuded by the balsam fir of North America, Abies balsamea. It is actually a turpentine, belonging to the class of oleoresins (natural products consisting of a resin dissolved in an essential oil), and not a balsam.
Canada balsam solidifies to a transparent mass and is an important cement, particularly in microscopy for mounting specimens and for glass in optical work.

, Canada Balsam, which is colorless, has the consistency of honey, and is used as a cement for glass in optical work and for mounting microscopic specimens. The tree is an important source of pulpwood, and the lumber is used for boxes, crates, cheese boxes, cooper-age, butter boxes, and for food containers since the wood is odorless and does not impart taste to the food. It is also used for sheathing, planing mill products, sash, doors and blinds.

File References

  ID T Name Source Actions
203 Abies Balsamea (Linnaeus) Miller
Abies balsamea tree with cones, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota
Attribution: By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (http://www.fws.gov/midwest/sherburne/ABBA1.HTM) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abies_balsamea.jpg
205 Balsam Fir Cones
Abies balsamea cones on Niapiskau island, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada.
Attribution: By Cephas - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20975318
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abies_balsamea_cones_Niapiskau_02.jpg
204 Balsam Fir Tree Bark
Abies balsamea bark, on young tree 15 cm diameter.
Attribution: By Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service, United States - This image is Image Number 5349060 at Forestry Images, a source for forest health, natural resources and silviculture images operated by The Bugwood Network at the University of Georgia and the USDA Forest Service., CC BY 3.0 us, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8373260
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abies_balsamea_bark.jpg

206 Balsam Fir Forest
Carter Dome seen from Mt. Hight, NH, with Abies balsamea krummholz
Attribution: By Petersent - Self-photographed, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4224152
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carter_Dome_seen_from_Mt_Hight.JPG
207 Balsam Fir Lumber
Balsam Fir lumber sample
Reference: Branch, Foresty Industry Development. “Buy Alberta Wood Products | SPF Lumber | Pulp | Engineered Wood Products.” Buy Alberta Wood Products | SPF Lumber | Pulp | Engineered Wood Products, http://albertawoodproducts.ca. Accessed 13 Oct. 2018.

303 Balsam Fir Range Map
Distribution map for Abies balsamea (L.) Mill. - balsam fir
Attribution: Elbert L. Little, Jr., U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, and others [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abies_balsamea_range_map_3.png


  • Shelley E. Schoonover (American Woods) 1951 (Watling & Co. ) Santa Monica, CA 

Contributors to this page: admin and John Morris .
Page last modified on Sunday July 24, 2022 17:01:21 PDT by admin.